Dan Williams’ showing blog: a new rule, measly prize money and unnecessary expenses

  • I fall into the ‘professional’ category when renewing my showing memberships each year, simply because I make a living looking after other people’s horses. Professional idiot, yes; professional horse rider, debatable! It has always been my dream to be a professional rider, but my idea of being a professional was winning every class I entered and not being able to walk around Hickstead without being stopped by someone wanting a selfie with me. So far, I haven’t been asked once for a selfie, despite spending hours on my eyebrows each morning — such a waste!

    The British Skewbald and Piebald Association has changed its rules for 2020 so riders aren’t eligible for amateur classes if they are based on a “professional’s” yard. Because I run a livery yard, I am classed as a professional, so technically, this means anyone on any yard that isn’t their own property will be classed as being based with a professional. Despite the fact I wouldn’t have anything to do with the horse and rider combination, if they remain on my yard they are no longer eligible to compete as an amateur under the new rule. They can, however, go for training with a top professional and remain an amateur, as long as they aren’t based with little old me. I tried to find out if I’m still considered a professional, even though I am not registered with their society, and apparently I am. Is it just me or does this make no sense? I mean the rule, not this paragraph!

    Each year I look at what horses I have to ride and then I have to figure out which societies I need to join to be eligible to ride them in the qualifying classes. The British Show Horse Association (BSHA) make it very simple for hacks, cobs and riding horses. If I want to enter classes that allow me to qualify for the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) and Horse Of the Year Show (HOYS), I join the BSHA. Two birds, one stone and all that.

    If, however, I have a hunter to produce for a season, I have to join Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain to be able to ride them in the RIHS qualifiers. But I have to be registered with the BSHA if I want to compete in HOYS qualifiers on a hunter. Some of you may be following me so far, but it only gets more complicated the more horses you have. I say complicated, I really mean unnecessarily expensive.

    A few years back, when showjumping was my thing, I joined British Showjumping (BS), formally the British Show Jumping Association. I did one membership a year and I registered every horse that I wanted to compete. Nothing confusing about that is there?!

    The 2020 season is going to be my busiest to date. I have even more of my own horses to take out and I have been given the ride on some beautiful horses by my fantastic owners too. Last week, I started looking into what societies I needed to be registered with for next year in order to be able to ride all these horses in the qualifying classes. My mind was blown! Some of the horses I ride must be registered with three or four societies in order to be eligible for their classes. Don’t even get me started on the different hats I need in order to comply with the rules!

    Why is it that in 2020, when we have one society for showjumping, one for eventing and one for dressage, do we have so many societies for showing?! I would list them but I’d use my word count up in this one paragraph…

    We all pay our memberships each year and, as the members, we have a say. Is it not about time that we all put our foot down and say enough is enough and insist that we reduce the amount of societies we have to join? I for one am struggling to find the time to read the rule books that are released for each, as well as having time to still ride my horses! Besides the fact that we have to learn countless different rules and spend hours registering horses, owners, riders and ourselves, it’s incredibly expensive. A full jumping member of British Showjumping currently pays £141 for the year. This also gives them a membership for a full year from the day they join. Last year, I spent almost £1,000 on registering myself, horses, riders and owners. And I have a small team. Jayne Ross must have to order a new cheque book every year in order to register all hers!

    Spending all of this money doesn’t sit right with me, especially since in showjumping you can win good prize money for competing at effectively what is the same level we are competing at in showing. Yet the supreme Ccampion at HOYS walks away with, in my opinion, a measly £1,000. I know it’s a huge honour and a life goal for many of us, but so is winning the grand prix at Spruce Meadows — I bet they wouldn’t do it for a grand!

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    Now, you can say that no one is forcing me to choose this discipline and you’d be right. However, if I am going to continue to have to spend a fortune every year on memberships and registrations, it’d be nice to have more than £6 for a third place. I’m not even joking, I genuinely won £6 for third place in a RIHS qualifying class this year. Not even enough for a round of coffees for my team! It’s ok though, we didn’t want coffee, we had prosecco.

    Ok, so this might be a bit of a rant but still, I vote all showing societies amalgamate with the British Show Horse Association who do a brilliant job, but that is just my opinion.


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